Carl Jung's Synchronicity

Definition With Real World Examples


Synchronicity Defined:

Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung first began using the term "synchronicity" in the 1920s to describe the experience of two or more causally unrelated events being observed as happening together in a manner that is meaningful. Just as events can be grouped by their cause, so also they can be grouped by their meaning. This relationship of meaning is sufficient in and of itself to constitute synchronicity, and it is not necessary to find some causal relationship between the events. As a matter of fact, finding a causal relationship between events can negate the experience of synchronicity; when this happens, the events are said to be "incoincident".

Youtube video explains synchronicity

Examples of Synchronicity

Two examples from Jung's own work:

(An excellent summary of Jung's development of Analytical Psychology and Jung's basic theories is offered to us in the book C. G. Jung, Lord of the Underworld (1984), by Colin Wilson. The following two examples of synchronicity and the included commentary are related in Wilson's book.)
M. Deschamps and the plum pudding: A certain M. Deschamps was given a piece of plum pudding by M. Fortgibu when he was a boy in Orleans. Ten years later, he saw some plum pudding and asked if he could have some -only to be told that it had been ordered by the same M. Fortgibu. Many years later he was invited to a meal that included plum pudding, and remarked that all that was wanting was M. Fortgibu. At that moment, the door opened, and in walked a doddering and senile M. Fortgibu, who had come to the wrong address ... (from Synchronicity, An Acausal Connecting Principle [1952] by C. G. Jung.)

"Later in the chapter, he (Jung) quotes Albertus Magnus -one of the fathers of western magic - to the effect that 'a certain power to alter things indwells in the human soul and subordinates the other things to her, particularly when she is swept into a great excess of love or hate or the like'." (Wilson: p.114)

An out of body experience: But in his final chapter (Synchronicity), he (Jung) cites a case that seems to offer a key to the mystery. He describes how a woman patient almost died after a difficult birth, and found herself in the air above her body, looking down on it. She could see that the doctor was slightly hysterical; then her family came in, and she observed their reactions. Behind her, she knew -although she could not see -there was a marvellous, park-like landscape with spring flowers, which she knew to be the entrance to 'the other world'. She knew that if she looked at it, she might be tempted not to re-enter her body, so she kept her eyes in the other direction. When she woke up, she was able to describe to the nurse what she had seen, and the nurse was obliged to admit that the patient was correct about the doctor and other matters.

"This says Jung, seems to demonstrate that there are perceptions independent of the body, and of space and time, and 'where sense perceptions are impossible from the start, it can hardly be an example of anything but synchronicity'. The reader blinks with astonishment, wondering what an 'out-of-body-experience' has to do with synchronicity. Yet it must be admitted that, in spite of Jung's reluctance to be too explicit, his general drift is perfectly clear. His own near death experience of 1944 had convinced him that the psyche is independent of the body, which seems to imply the reality of life after death. In fact, in an essay on "The Soul and Death", written in 1934, he had come close to affirming the same thing, commenting that all the world's major religions seem to accept that life is a preparation for 'the ultimate goal of death'. Such out-of-the-body experiences, taken together with 'meaningful coincidences', certainly suggest that the universe is not a Chaotic conglomeration of matter. We are somehow involved in a profoundly meaningful process, and can influence that process. So synchronicities may be understood in two ways: either as a 'magical' process -an influence exerted by the unconscious mind upon the world around us -or as a kind of nudge from some unknown guardian angel, whose purpose is to tell us that life is not as meaningless as it looks." (Wilson p.115-116)

Pink Floyd's The Wall and Lifeforce (1985):

Pairing random audio works with random videos was once a popular pastime of people with too much time on their hands. Occasionally, the practice uncovered an interplay between audio and video that made it seem like they were meant for each other. Although almost any random audio-visual pairing could produce an interplay that sort of worked, pairings that worked extremely well were quite rare. One of the most popular bands for these kinds of pairings was the progressive rock band Pink Floyd. See Pink Floyd audio/visual synchronicities database
  The most popular of these random pairings to emerge from this movement was an A/V pairing that came to be known as DSotR (Dark Side of the Rainbow), or Dark Side of Oz. It worked by combining the video of the MGM movie The Wizard of Oz (1939), with the Pink Floyd album DSotM (Dark Side of the Moon). In an effort to find an explanation for the apparent A/V interplay of these "synchroncities" (as they came to be known), some have dismissed it as mere coincidence; others have tried to explain it as a trick of the mind, as in apophenia; but most interestingly, in 1997, writing for Relix magazine, Dave Kopel suggested the phenomenon was an example of Carl Jung's synchronicity. (see Dark Side of Oz: Coincidence, Apophenia or Synchronicity?)
  Audio /visual synchronicities are, of course, the more general subject of this website. And while Dark Side of Oz has held much of my interest over the years since I first began investigating this phenomenon, recently, I've been shifting my focus to a newer a/v synchronicity. And while I still believe that Dark Side of Oz is one of the best candidates for the study of synchronicity in audio /visual pairings, this same a/v pairing, unfortunately, has become something of a joke in popular culture. Rather than being recognized as a possible example of Jung's synchronicity, Dark Side of Oz has come to be associated with a certain "stoner culture", whose participants like to blow their minds on acid or other illicit drugs, and stare mindlessly at amusing stimuli. The stigma attached to this a/v pairing makes it nearly impossible for anyone investigating the phenomenon to be taken seriously.
  As I said, I've been shifting my attention to a newer a/v pairing, in the hope that an unrecognized pairing won't have the same stigma attached to it as Dark Side of Oz. This newer pairing combines another Pink Floyd album, The Wall, with the 1985 science-fiction /horror film Lifeforce. At first glance, Lifeforce may seem like just another lowbrow zombie flick, but I see this as a kind of variation of Mutiny on the Bounty, except that in this movie, it's the savages who visit civilization, and whose leader takes a mate from among the civilized. With the savage representing the subjective mind, and the civilized person as the objective mind, I can see this as a kind of parable on the fusion of the subjective and objective minds, as in Jung's individuation. See Life After The Wall -a pairing of Pink Floyd's The Wall and Lifeforce (1985).
Note: In what is perhaps a related incident of synchronicity, a replica of the HMS Bounty built for the 1962 MGM motion picture Mutiny on the Bounty foundered at sea, during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Included among the only two persons killed in the disaster was Claudene Christian, a descendant of Fletcher Christian.

From Personal Experience:

To cite an example of synchronicity from my own experience (using a true story), I recall an incident of waking up one morning to the sound of a thunderstorm. This storm was a ways off in the distance, and only the occasional rumble of thunder was audible from where I was situated. It was the same time that I had begun work on this website, and as I lay there in bed, I started going over in my mind ideas for the website. As I had written books in the past, finding sufficient words to fill my web pages up with was not a particularly daunting challenge. But as anyone with any experience creating web pages knows, people don't go online to read whole books. The challenge for the webmaster, in contrast to an author, is to say as much as possible with as few words as possible.

To continue the story, I was lying there thinking up ideas for my website, and one of the ideas I was contemplating that morning was the concept of synchronicity. I was looking for a phrase that would sufficiently give readers a sense of the meaning of the word, while at the same time satisfying this need for frugality with words. The phrase I had come up with was "meaningful coincidence" -a phrase that Jung himself had used to describe synchronicity. At the very moment the phrase "meaningful coincidence" entered my mind, a particularly loud clap of thunder disrupted my train of thought. I was not distacted to the point, however, where the significance of what had just happened was lost to me. Now if this had happened just the once, I likely would have forgotten it. But, seeing as a somewhat meaningful coincidence had just occured, at the very moment I was contemplating meaningful coincidences, I decided to test my meaningful coincidence to see if it was "just a coincidence". I waited until I thought the storm had passed, and then once again whispered the phrase "meaningful coincidence". At that very instant, another huge clap of thunder suddenly shattered the early morning silence of my room. At this point, I realized that as I lay contemplating synchronicity, I was in fact moving into the realm of synchronicity; but I had to be sure. I reasoned that if this were to happen three times, it would be outside the realm reasonable probability. So I waited again, until I thought the storm had passed. Once again, I whispered, "meaningful coincidence" and once again the house shook before I had even finished saying it.

Three times this had happened, and I was trying everything to convince myself that it wasn't happening. So this time I waited . . . and waited . . . until I hadn't heard even the faintest rumblings of thunder off in the distance for a good ten minutes. Then I tried blurting it out as quickly as I could: "Meaningful coincidence." No sooner had I opened my mouth when another enormous clap of thunder suddenly sounded, this time sounding as though it had come from directly overhead. By now, I was starting to get the message that I was not going to get away with writing a two word description for my definition of synchronicity. I later concluded that I needed to write a whole article on the subject.

The Titan

  • Largest vessel afloat in its day; said to be unsinkable
  • less than half the lifeboats needed to accomodate capacity crew and passengers (about 3000 persons)
  • This luxury liner was hailed as the engineering marvel of its day
  • On an April night, struck iceberg on starboard side, while travelling in excess of 20 knots
  • Sank 400 miles off coast of Newfoundland
  • More than half of its 2500 passengers killed

The grim tale of The Titan doubtlessly is a familiar story to many of you, just as most are probably wondering if this is not a misprint, with the correct name of the vessel being The Titanic. The Titan is, in fact, the vessel's correct name, and these the correct facts of the story. But the tale of The Titan and its uncanny parallel to The Titanic would not seem so strange, considering that The Titan is a fictional ship, unless I tell you that this fictional ship appeared in a novel (Futility) by Morgan Robertson, in 1898, years before any plans for The Titanic had even been drawn up.

Another strange incident portending to The Titanic disaster is the story of spiritualist William Thomas Stead. Stead, a journalist, was a sharp critic of trans-oceanic liners crossing the Atlantic with insufficient lifeboats. Years after publishing an article on the subject, Stead was a passenger on The Titanic, and was one of the passengers lost at sea.

The Rainmaker

The following is another example taken from C. G. Jung, Lord of the Underworld. This one makes me think my days spent as a virtual hermit may not have been such a waste of time after all. In fact, it was my days in isolation that I first became interested in The Wizard of Oz, which, in turn, led me to Dark Side of Oz, and finally to my interest in synchronicity itself.

"In the fourth volume of the series, The Knight, Spiegelman makes an observation of central importance: that the successful practice of active imagination 'regularly leads to the occurrence of synchronistic events, in which one is related to the world in a deep, mystical way'. What happens, Spiegelman suggests, is that the inner work somehow changes one's relatinship to the world. He then tells the important story of the Rainmaker, originally told to Jung by Richard Wilhelm. Wilhelm was in a remote Chinese village that was suffering from drought. A rainmaker was sent for from a distant village. He asked for a cottage on the outskirts of the village, and vanished into it for three days. Then there was a tremendous downpour, followed by snow - an unheard of occurrence at that time of year.
  Wilhelm asked the old man how he had done it; the old man replied that he hadn't. 'You see', said the old man, 'I come from a region where everything is in order. It rains when it should rain and is fine when that is needed. The people are themselves in order. But the people in this village are all out of Tao and out of themselves. I was at once infected when I arrived, so I asked for a cottage on the edge of the village, so I could be alone. When I was once more in Tao, it rained.'" (Wilson, p.153-54)

Examples of Synchronicity on Youtube

Dr. David Luke gets "tired"

Meaningful Coincidence or "Just Coincidence"?

After doing more research on the subject, after my own incident with synchronicity, it quickly became obvious that "meaningful coincidence" was not a sufficient phrase to sum up the concept of synchronicity, as Carl Jung had explained it. The term "meaningful coincidence" does not truly convey the significance of the phenomenon that Jung had ascribed to it. If I am sitting in an office and drop my pen, and the person next to me drops her pen at the same moment -that is just a mundane example of coincidence, which most of us experience every day. True synchronicity, according to Jung, is a much rarer event -an event which offers the suggestion of a governing dynamic operating to guide the course of human affairs.

Unus Mundus

Synchronicity was not a concept central to Jung's theories; rather, it was a concept put forth by Jung to show evidence for his theories on psychology. Jung was among the early pioneers of psychology whose methods were aimed at being scientific, but, at the same time, their theories were built around concepts of spirituality. Jung saw life as an expression of a deeper order, which he and Wolfgang Pauli called Unus mundus (Latin: One world).

For Jung, synchronicity, much like dreams, was relevant to psychology to the extent that it could offer a person an awakening from an egocentric perspective to an awareness of the Unus Mundus. Synchronicity, according to Jung, offered us evidence of his other concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious.


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